Monday, August 10, 2020

Becoming More Culturally Proficient

A foundational part of our professional lives as ASPers is providing feedback to students. As we engage students to provide feedback, it is likely that we will sit across from people who differ greatly from us. Try as we might to avoid judging them based on stereotypes or in-group favoritism, we all have implicit biases that may thwart those efforts (even if we like to think we conduct ourselves in an identity-neutral manner).

Some may read this and think: “No, not me. I believe in justice and equity, and strive to treat everyone fairly. I deal with diverse students daily. I’m good.” In truth, however, a person can simultaneously be committed to those principles and largely avoid conscious expressions of bias, yet still have student interactions that are influenced by their implicit biases. We all have blind spots, despite any attempts to “use introspection to acquit ourselves of accusations of bias, while using realistic notions of human behavior to identify bias in others.” Richard A. Posner, How Judges Think 121 (2008). 

Acknowledging this reality is critical if we are to fully leverage opportunities for growth. To that end, the reflection questions below are a helpful starting point for those interested in identifying their orientation/preferences for communication and collaboration.

  • How do you like people to communicate with you?
  • How do you like to lead?
  • How do you like to be led?
  • How do you like people to resolve conflict with you?
  • How do you like people to collaborate with you?

After reflecting on these points, consider: (1) how your preferences inform the way you provide feedback to students, (2) how your preferences might differ from students’ preferences, (3) how having preferences that differ from students might affect your ability to effectively engage them, and (4) how you can leverage any takeaways in future interactions with students.


Lory Barsdate Easton & Stephen V. Armstrong, How to Minimize Implicit Biases (and Maximize Your Team’s Legal Talent), 58 No. 9 DRI For Def. 80 (2016).

(Victoria McCoy Dunkley)

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